Monday, July 2, 2012

Global Leadership: What Is It?

Last week I spoke at a conference in Germany focused on the topic of global leadership.  What surprised me most was that none of the other presenters offered a definition of global leadership.  Is the concept now so commonplace that we all share a common understanding?  I don’t think so. Maybe I’m old fashioned in my view that we should define our terms.

One assumption that did seem to be shared by many was that when we talk about a global leader we refer to someone at a high level in an organization – someone at an executive level who has clear, global responsibilities.  In my view, this conception is too narrow.  The global and the local realms are becoming increasingly blurred.  When it comes to making the best decisions for the organization it is critical that leaders at all levels and locations have both a global and local mindset – that they see the local impact of global decisions and the global impact of local decisions.  The responsibility for anyone influencing and taking decisions should be to optimize results for the whole organization rather than promote global or local at the expense of the other.

The types of decisions made by different leaders will vary by level. Those at the top of the organization will be responsible for more strategic decisions while those in the middle will be focused on more tactical decisions.  Those at lower levels of leadership will be primarily responsible for operational decisions. What are the differences?

·         Strategic Decisions (Long-term): Concerned with deciding on the what?

·         Tactical Decisions (Medium term): Concerned with deciding on the how?

·         Operational Decisions (Short term): Concerned with deciding on how – right now?

Whatever the type of decision, the outcome should be beneficial to global and local interests.  And so, my definition of a global leader:
“Any individual or group taking responsibility for making decisions - strategic, tactical, and/or operational - that aim to optimize global and local results.”
Positional power is not a factor in this definition of global leadership, and neither is location.  Being given responsibility is also not a factor while taking responsibility is. 

From this perspective, most organizations will need a far greater number of global leaders than they currently have.    


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